Film Industry Blocks Bike Lanes, City of LA Doesn’t Care

Film industry trucks block bike lanes all the time here in Los Angeles, particularly along busy and fast moving Sunset Boulevard. Shutting down a bike lane on Sunset forces cyclists to merge into traffic that is sometimes going as fast as 50 miles an hour. It’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

Not much room between a fast moving bus and a film industry truck.

As to the legality of blocking a bike lane I don’t have a good answer, but in my opinion it doesn’t matter. Even if it is legal, that doesn’t make it right or safe. Is a film production worth a traumatic brain injury or a death?

Those of us who ride a bike in Los Angeles need your help. I want get the word out that:

  • Elected officials in the City of Los Angeles (in this case, Councilman Garcetti’s district) do not take the safety of cyclists and pedestrians seriously enough.
  • The film industry values profits over human lives.

Please Tweet, Facebook and link to this post even if you don’t live here. Appeals to the police department and elected officials in the past have done nothing to fix this problem. All we get are excuses and, once LAPD calls the film crew, hand made signs like the one below:

In Portland, Oregon cyclists get a detour:

To contact those responsible for this situation please email the following:

Film L.A. (the non-profit entity that coordinates and processes filming permits): [email protected]
Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti: contact form 

Like most cyclists here in LA, I also drive, walk and take public transportation so I understand this issue from all sides. We need equity in our transportation choices and we all need to stay safe.

UPDATE: Looks like the city has “fixed” the problem with slightly more official looking signs:

Too bad it’s still dangerous. I guess it’s going to take a death to fix this problem.

UPDATE 8/29/12: More coverage in The Eastsider and Streetsblog.

Quebec Kitchen Garden Saved

From BoingBoing, an update on the Drummondville, Quebec kitchen garden, seen in the time lapse video above. City officials have backed down on asking for the garden to be removed.

Drummondville town officials announced the decision [Link is in French] this week during a special session of the Municipal Council to discuss the case. The decision could create a ripple effect in other cities worldwide as zoning laws are a constant debate in urban environments. Roger told us, “The Drummondville case was one of the highest profile examples of a local municipality challenging the right to grow food in one’s own yard. While it took place in Canada, it quickly attracted international media attention because of the garden’s beauty and productivity. The win is significant because it helps establish a precedent that other urban and suburban gardeners can refer to when similar challenges arise in other parts of the world.”

Thrive: How Doughnuts Can Save The World

I flipped on the car radio the other day just as some new age guru was discussing why he thought that so many people don’t have a lot of money these days:

Host: There is not lack of resources?
Guru: There is not. We will always be able to create more. And we don’t need to know how or why. I see poverty as being this incredibly dangerous disease. I mean, how many horrible things are happening in the world today because of poverty? How many crimes are being committed? How many people are being killed or injured?
Host: Because of the belief in a lack of resources?
Guru: Exactly. If we all believe that we can create whatever we need as we need it that would go a long way to stopping crime, stopping oppression, theft and many other terrible things that happen in this world.

So apparently, according to this guru, we can imagine resources into being. This is precisely the sort of delusional thinking that John Michael Greer has warned will show up when oil and food start to get scarce. It’s also the same feel-good philosophy that Barbara Ehrenreich critiques in her book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America.You can find this cult of positive thinking on all sides of the political spectrum, both left and right. And it has, apparently, survived the 2008 economic meltdown in which it played a big role.

But the Nobel Prize for delusional thinking, however, should be awarded to Foster Gamble (of the Gamble family half of Proctor & Gamble) for being the auteur behind of one of the most bizarre documentaries I’ve ever sat through, Thrive What On Earth Will It Take? You can watch Thrive in its entirety on YouTube via the link. And if you’re a connoisseur of so-bad-it’s-good cinema and conspiracy theories, you really should take a look at this thing.

Most of the film takes place on a kind of interview studio/spaceship inspired, perhaps, by the one Carl Sagan deployed in Cosmos. But unlike Sagan, Gamble is not one to let inconvenient facts like the laws of thermodynamics interfere with all that free energy we can just will into existence. The central thesis of Thrive is put forth by an outsider physicist (sporting a sort of new age mullet) who explains that there’s a form, resembling an oversized and transparent jelly doughnut that, when combined with one of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic shapes, can create energy out of thin air. Or, at least, that’s what I think he said. Confirmation that this jelly doughnut energy thingy works is delivered by UFO abductees who witnessed (during anal probe sessions?) spaceships using the jelly doughnut energy vortex to fly around the galaxy. Further confirmation comes from crop circles, Nikola Tesla and a montage of perpetual motion machines.

Of course, oil companies, international bankers and Freemasons have stomped down their collective jack boots on the free energy generating jelly doughnut. David Icke, British sportscaster turned reptilian conspiracy theorist, is brought on to flesh out the geopolitical segment of Thrive. This segment culminates, for me at least, in the amazing revelation that seed companies are working on a spermicidal corn to control the human population.

Along the way we hear from Indian GMO activist Vandana Shiva and Deepak Chopra, which probably explains this disclaimer at the end of the film:

Personally, I’m thanking my lucky stars that Kelly and I ended up on the cutting room floor of a 2012 doc that came out last year, but that’s another story.

So how does Gamble suggest we fight off the evil bankers/one world government? Thrive concludes in the same way a lot of more mainstream environmental documentaries end these days, with tepid suggestions about shopping for organic food, buying recycled yoga mats, “organizing” and switching to credit unions.

In a blog post entitled “Merlin’s Time,” John Michael Greer sums up what I wish mainstream eco-docs would conclude with (Thrive is so outre that, as a work of unintentional conceptual art, it should just stay as it is). Greer says that what we really we need to do is,

learn, practice, and thoroughly master a set of unpopular but valuable skills – the skills of the old appropriate tech movement – and share them with their neighbors when the day comes that their neighbors are willing to learn. This is not a subject where armchair theorizing counts for much – as every wizard’s apprentice learns sooner rather than later, what you really know is measured by what you’ve actually done – and it’s probably not going to earn anyone a living any time soon, either, though it can help almost anyone make whatever living they earn go a great deal further than it might otherwise go. Nor, again, will it prevent the unraveling of the industrial age and the coming of a harsh new world; what it can do, if enough people seize the opportunity, is make the rough road to that new world more bearable than it will otherwise be.

In that new world we’ll have to grow and fry up our jelly doughnuts from scratch and they won’t fly us around. Neither, thankfully, will they be made with spermicidal corn syrup.

What Do Microbes Have To Do With Homesteading?

So what are the activities that microbes make possible around the homestead? To name just four:

  • Fermentation
  • Beekeeping
  • Soil Fertility
  • Human beings

Pretty important stuff. In fact, new systems thinking, applied to our natural word, is demonstrating that things like human beings are really just symbiotic sacks of microbial life. An article in the Economist, “Microbes maketh man” discusses just how important microbes are to human health:

The traditional view is that a human body is a collection of 10 trillion cells which are themselves the products of 23,000 genes. If the revolutionaries are correct, these numbers radically underestimate the truth. For in the nooks and crannies of every human being, and especially in his or her guts, dwells the microbiome: 100 trillion bacteria of several hundred species bearing 3m non-human genes. The biological Robespierres believe these should count, too; that humans are not single organisms, but superorganisms made up of lots of smaller organisms working together.

Natural beekeeper Michael Bush has made the same argument about bees. Elaine Ingham has emphasized the importance of microbes in soil.

Mess with the complex interdependent relationships between microbes and people, soil etc. and you’re asking for trouble. This, for me, is the argument against things like GMOs, Miracle Grow or conventional chemical beekeeping. We don’t know enough, and probably never will know, how 100 trillion bacteria will react to our latest innovation. Best to be conservative when it comes to microbial life.

Looking forward to seeing more of this microbial paradigm shift in science.

Doomsday Preppers: Exploitative, Uninteresting, Unreal “Reality”

Doomsday Preppers, a series on the National Geographic channel, is part of a cloud of meaningless cable drivel that envelopes our national psyche like the smog that hangs over Los Angeles. In many ways Doomsday Preppers is indistinguishable from countless other low rent reality TV shows. Does anyone really sit down and watch this endless parade of house flippers, dance moms and custom motorcycle enthusiasts? Or is it all a kind of background, tranquilizing, electronic wallpaper?

I bring up Doomsday Preppers because many of its subjects are engaged in precisely the types of activities we write about on this blog and in our books: growing food, keeping livestock, building solar ovens, preserving food etc. And I finally got a chance to see the first episode and a few segments from later shows.

Of the three “compounds” profiled in the first episode, the most interesting was the family of Dennis McClung in Mesa, Arizona and the Kobler and Hunt families, who share a rural homestead. McClung has built an amazing tilapia farm in an old swimming pool in their backyard. They also have chickens and goats and have integrated the livestock into the greenhouse/tilapia project. It would have been interesting to see how the system McClung created works as a whole. But the producers were more interested in filming the family putting on gas masks and making duck weed smoothies. The Kobler and Hunt families operate what seems like a pretty normal rural homestead. What is unusual is their social arrangement: two families living together. It would have been interesting to explore that relationship. Instead the producers gave us endless scenes of the family shooting AR-15s.

Memo to the National Geographic folks: the internet has been bringing educational video content into living rooms for many years now, showing us how to actually grow tilapia, keep goats, etc. McClung, in fact, has his own website,, which shows all the things I wanted to see on the TV show. Doomsday Preppers, on the other hand, has no redeeming educational content.

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